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Remembering Ray Collett,
the Arboretum's Founding Director

Ray in a field of California wildflowers

Comments, annecdotes, rememberances,
and stories from friends and colleagues.

Ray Collett personified UCSC at its very best: vision, integrity, imagination, accomplishment.

—Todd Newberry, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology

Essentially all of what we see at the Arboretum today is mostly the result
of over thirty years of Ray's interest, vision, and direction...

...He was arguably the first person in California horticulture to correctly understand the cultural needs and preferences of plants such as Grevillea and Leucadendron that have become critically important to gardeners, landscapers and nursery professionals throughout California.

Under his direction the Arboretum certainly made more worthwhile, lasting introductions to our trade than any other institution in the US, possibly in the world.

His presence will be missed, except at the Arboretum, where it continues to flourish in the beauty of the wonderful plantings he created.

Goodbye Ray, see you on the next level. I am proud to be able to say I knew you well.

—Luen Miller, Monterey Bay Nursery

...meeting up with Ray in the 1970s probably changed our lives for ever.

We may never have travelled to USA. We would probably never have heard of the UCSC Arboretum and not had the experience of seeing so many Australian plants cultivated in soil and climatic conditions quite different from those of Australia.

We would also never have known the wonderful friendships we have shared with people from UCSC and in fact from all over California and further afield. The times spent travelling with Ray...both in USA and here in Australia, plus travels with other friends from UCSC have also provided memories we will treasure forever.

— Rodger & Gwen Elliot, Victoria, Australia

...Ray taught us all...that logic and intuition can co-exist.

In fact, their combination is the ultimate key to true knowledge. Ray was a wizard with plants. But wizards don't count for much if no one knows about them. Ray forced himself to connect with other humans, to the betterment of us all. He taught me to force myself to do that, too. People think of him as a great plantsman, and naturalist, which he is. But (seemingly, but not really ironically), his greatest achievement has been to bring all of us humans all together. If that's not an angel, than none of us are!

...Ray brought us all together. He was a true pioneer, in an age when true pioneers were becoming scarce here in the USA. He forced himself to interact with humans (as we all do sometimes). His greatest legacy, even moreso than his plants, is bringing all of us together. I remember that symposium at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz with all of us together. That was perhaps our shiningest moment!...

—Steve Brigham

Ray...was spreading to this crazy and ridiculous human world,
his deepest felt, self-cultivated philosophy of pan-joyism.
That is, joy for all and all for joy.

I suppose I was one of the last people that got to know Ray intimately. I lived with him for the last eight months of his life. I worked for him, maintaining his gardens, fruit trees, paths, helping him keeping his house together, and keeping him company. As I helped him in many ways, he greatly helped me in every facet of my life. Like many of his horticultural contributions to the world, he helped me grow! In the time I lived with him, at no other time have I experienced such vigorous intellectual growth, such physical health, and such day by day joy for the wonders of life. I was treated by him like a unique and unusual, yet divinely beautiful, flowering plant. HIs strangely intimate fascination with me, although at first almost discomforting, I eventually began to realize was just a direct display of his profound and heedless love for all of the nicely, humanly appealing wonders of the world.

When one looks at the way he cherished all 'nice things'; that is, exceptionally odoriferous things, bizzarre and beautiful world plants, good and healthy foods and drinks, sweet people, nice animals (not those pesky 'coons or deer!), butterflies.... one can see through his sometimes (to not so nice, manipulative and opportunistic spin-doctorly people, again in his words) crass demeanor, an image pouring forth of an ineffably sweet, child-like being with a love machine of unimaginable proportions.

Ray, through his horticultural contributions, teachings on almost every subject, through the arboretum, his hire and housing of students for decades, his quirky emails and ilustrations, by almost all of his actions, was spreading to this crazy and ridiculous human world, his deepest felt, self-cultivated philosophy of pan-joyism. That is, joy for all and all for joy. Love for all and all for love. Ray was an incarnation of love and boundless pleasure from his enormously acute senses. He tried and tried, sometimes untactfully (although he tried and tried to make his advances more tactful) to teach others to enjoy the many wonders that the world has to offer, and to not let anything or anyone (anorgasmic, anosmic spin doctors, priests, parasitic administrators, pharmaceuticals, moneymakers with their heads up their asses) confuse the true purposes and potentials in life, by deluding or desensitizing one to the infinite array of endless joy that the universe secretes from just about every sense affecting nodule. Let pan-joyism live on through every one of us that was fortunate enough to know and to love, and be loved by, Ray Collett.

—Alec Christensen